Sorry for being quiet these last two weeks. One of my dearest friends just died last Monday after a two-year battle with breast cancer.
Even though my mind has been busy like Divisoria, I feel like I’ve lost my voice and don’t know what to say.
I’ve had insomnia for about two weeks, though the migraine and stomach ache have disappeared since my friend passed away.
Tomorrow is the last day and interment of ashes. I’ve taken Melatonin but can’t sleep.
I’m OK but not OK. I can’t even cry.
So many thoughts, don’t know what to say, but this is a start.

Winners: It’s a hair affair at Watsons

Sorry for my absence this week. I’ve had a lot to deal with and I need to get back on track and work.
I did pick out three winners of our giveaway yesterday via
They are:

Sheryll Austria of Palawan
Kristine Joy Fontillas of Baguio City
Ria Hazel Lumandog of Tondo, Manila

So wow! I get to ship all packages to them!
All three winners will have these delivered to their addresses:

W Elite

Inside: The W Elite Gold Curl and Straight Nano Ceramic Tourmaline Styler, W Elite Gold Nano Ceramic Hair Dryer and Watsons Heat Active Hair Serum.

W Elite

Winners, please check your email. Also, watch out for my next giveaway!

West Elm opens at Estancia Mall

Home furnishings retailer West Elm opens its first store in Southeast Asia today at Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons.
If you haven’t been there yet, Capitol Commons is in Kapitolyo, Pasig.
The new development is a lifestyle destination with residential and office spaces, a park, and the Estancia Mall.

capitol commons

West Elm in the Philippines is a partnership between the New York-based brand and Stores Specialists Inc., a member of SSI Group Inc.
It is known for furniture and home decor that combine modern design and traditional craftsmanship. Many of the products are results of collaborations with independent designers and craft communities around the world.

West Elm

The 7,000 square-foot store showcases West Elm’s summer collection of furniture, beddings, bathroom accessories, rugs, window textiles and hardware, lighting, decorative accessories, dining, kitchen products and gifts.
At the Design Lab, customers can consult design specialists and space planners for free.

West Elm

“We have found a really great partner in Stores Specialists Inc. and it seemed a natural extension because we work with Filipino artisans,” said Kerri Ackermann, Division Merchandise Manager for West Elm.
Ackerman said West Elm designers travel the world to look for artisans and communities to collaborate with, such as Filipino capiz artisans and weavers. West Elm has also worked with potters from Sto. Tomas, Pampanga for Linework vases.

West Elm
Kerri Ackermann (West Elm Division Merchandise Manager) with guest Grace Velasco

“We are extremely proud to open West Elm in the country not only because we can offer Filipinos more design and quality choices but also because West Elm cherishes Filipino craftsmanship,” said Anton Huang, President of SSI Group Inc.
Also at the opening were Matthew Anderson (West Elm Global Visial Manager) and Ashley St. John (West Elm Visual Manager, Chelsea NYC)

West Elm

West Elm showcases four collections—Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall—every year, so we can expect new merchandise every three months. Ackermann said however, the “heavier” materials and fabrics such as velvet will not be sold here.
“We really came here to understand the market so you’ll find that everything is lighter and more suitable for the climate.”

Take a look of what’s in store now at West Elm Estancia Mall, starting with the Emmerson Reclaimed Wood dining table and bench matched with Willoughby leather dining chairs

West Elm

Rustic Modular Storage desk and shelves with Helvetica leather office chair

West Elm

Belgian linen pocket place mat with classy gold flatware

West Elm

Giftable candles hand-poured into recycled glass containers

West Elm

Rounded Retro Sofa with Reeve Mid-Century Oval coffee table

West Elm

Reeve Mid-Century side table

West Elm

Rewined candles: all-natural soy wax hand poured into repurposed wine bottles

West Elm

All kinds of table top items

West Elm

Beds and linens

West Elm
West Elm

Home office items

West Elm

What I got: Mid-Century Turned Leg planters for Jeroen’s herbs

West Elm

On opening weekend, shoppers can get 20% off on outdoor furniture and select decorative accessories

West Elm
West Elm

West Elm joins other Williams-Sonoma Inc. brands that have opened stores in the Philippines with SSI, including Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and PBTeen—all of which open today at Estancia Mall.
For more information, like them on Facebook and follow @westelmph on Instagram.
West Elm is open Monday-Thursday from 11 AM to 9 PM and Friday-Sunday from 10 AM to 10 PM.

West Elm

Tokyo cheat sheet: A Filipino’s guide to the city

I was already in my teens when I first went to Japan in the ’80s. I remember feeling very intimidated with the surroundings, I would hide behind my dad.
I felt like my clothes were baduy. I had a strong desire to fit in and be like them. There was this one shop girl whose look I really liked, so I copied her down to the long hair. The only way I can describe how she looked was when I tried to replicate that look in Muji show I styled back in 2012.

Irish at Muji
Model Irish Ong wears Muji

I’m so glad I have a three-year, multiple-entry Japan visa. Now that I’m older and can afford it, I try to go to Japan at least twice a year; three if I’m lucky. I’m also glad to have known Filipinos who feel the same passion for Japan.
My Tokyo is different from anyone’s Tokyo. I’m a creature of habit. Even though there are new places to discover, there are certain places I have to come back to, just because. And that’s what this post is all about.
I asked some hardcore Tokyo visitors to share what makes Tokyo their happy place.

Ben Chan
Founder and CEO of BENCH

How often? Three to four times a year
How long? 5 days at least
Airport: Haneda
Airline: ANA
Transport: Taxi
Stay: Peninsula Hotel, Ritz Carlton
Area: Marunouchi-Ginza
Shop: Comme des Garçons, Thom Browne, Dover Street Market, Visvim, Isetan Men’s
Eat: Maisen Tonkatsu, St. Marc Cafe, Kyubei Sushi, Marugame Udon. Across Isetan is a very traditional tempura place where the name is written in Kanji so I don’t know the name. All the seafood are alive before they are fried into tempura. It’s been there for over a hundred years.
Besides Tokyo, where else is good to go? Osaka
Pasalubong: Leaf Pie, Yoku Moku, Japanese roasted rice tea

Jappy Gonzalez with Coco
Managing Director, H&F Retail Concepts Inc.

How often? 2-3 times a year
How long? a week more or less
Airport: Narita
Airline: JAL
Transport: Uber or bike!
Stay: Hotel Cerulean or my friends’ (Argie Bucot & Jim Hough’s) house in Shibuya
Area: Aoyama, Shibuya, Daikanyama
Shop: Good Design Store, Comme des Garçons, MoMA, F.I.L. (Visvim)
Eat: Tamawarai, Dosanjin, Kakuro (my good friend Rene Domingo brought me here), the misono at The Hotel Okura
Besides Tokyo, where else is good to go? I’d like to go to Hokkaido
Pasalubong: KitKat

Henson family

L-R: Children Gabbie and Rafa, Gerard, and wife Tere in Tokyo

How often? Two to three times a year
How long? 9-10 days
Airport: Really prefer Haneda but flight schedules to and from Manila are not very favorable
Airline: Delta, ANA or JAL
Transport: Train
Stay: Hotel within Shinjuku area
Areas: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Omotedando, Aoyama, Daikanyama, Marunouchi
Shop: Isetan, Isetan Mens, Hankyu Mens, Yohji Yamamoto, Sacai, Muveil Gallery, Comme des Garçons, The Pool, Blue Blue Japan, Beams, United Arrows, Beauty & Youth, Journal Standard, HeadPorter, Parco
Eat: Maisen, Tonkatsu Santa, Fukuzushi, Santouka, Tsunahachi, Tenichi, Rangetsu, Nabezu, Blacows Burger
Besides Tokyo, where else is good to go? Only other place we’ve been to is Kyoto
Pasalubong: Anything from Isetan Food Court

Jujiin Samonte

How often? There was a time when I used to do it yearly. The last time I was there was in 2012.
How long? 1-3 months
Airport: Narita
Airline: JAL. I like when they always mistake me for a Japanese.
Transport: Train! I love the Yamanote loop because it stops at my favorite stations. But nothing beats walking. I usually get off at Shibuya (or sometimes when I leave early I start in Ebisu/Daikanyama) and end my walk in Shinjuku (passing Harajuku, Omotesando, Aoyama, Yoyogi Koen). There’s always something new to discover and the things you expect to see are still as magical as before.
Stay: I stay at my mom’s
Harajuku—I like to sit on the railings in front of Laforet and people-watch and take it all in
Yoyogi on a Sunday
Ginza at dusk
Shinjuku at night
Halloween in Shibuya is an experience
Ueno Koen during cherry blossom season
Shop: DSM in Ginza, MMM in Ebisu, Laforet, Wut Berlin, Spiral & Dog in Harajuku, CDG in Aoyama, Candy in Shibuya
Besides Tokyo, where else is good to go? I have only been to Osaka and Yokohama. Tokyo pa rin!
Pasalubong: Any random, interesting stuff from Tokyu Hands and/or Loft (and sometimes Disneyland/Sea)

Kerwin Go
Head Chef of People’s Palace and Blackbird

How often? Twice a year now, but hopefully more often
How long? 5 days
Airport: Narita, but if you can get a flight to Haneda, better, as it’s closer to the city
Airline: JAL
Transport: Taxi or train
Stay: If budget is not as issue then The Peninsula is the best.
Got cash to burn? Park Hyatt Shinjuku.
Want something central and reasonably priced? Then Century Southern Tower. It’s right across Takashimaya and the Shinjuku train station so it’s easy to get around the whole city
Shop: United Arrows and Sons in Harajuku, Isetan Shinjuku, Dover Street Market, Saturday Surf NYC in Daikanyama for casual clothes at great price points. Tsutaya / T site in Daikanyama.
Tempura at Tsunahanchi or Ten Ichi
Sushi at Fukusuzhi in Roponggi
Pastries and bread at Gontran Cherrier
Gyoza Harajuku on Cat street
Food hall of Isetan
If you have more budget, Ryugin for kaiseki
Besides Tokyo, where else is good to go? Kyoto—especially during the sakura season
Pasalubong: Any Pastry from the Isetan food Hall. We also bring home fruits. At the airport, Shiroi Kobito—think lengua de gato sandwich with chocolate.

Mikko Sison
Architectural/Interior Design Consultant

How often? Once a year for a “pachinko junket” with mother and sister
How long? On average, 10 days
Airport: Narita
Airline: Delta, or any that gets me there in one piece
Transport: Train
Stay: Prince Hotel, Shinjuku
Areas: Ueno, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Okachimachi, Shibuya, Ikebukuro
Shop: Isetan, GU, Project 1/6, Atmos and Windsor
Eat: Anything and everything
Besides Tokyo, where else is good to go? Have only been to Osaka, but plan to explore ALL of Japan. Maybe write A Gaijin’s Guide to Paching
Pasalubong: Goodies for my family (clothes, toys)

Kissa McDermott
EIC of Home Journal, Hong Kong

How often? ​Not as often as I wish. After leaving for good in 2011 (lived there for almost 7 years), I finally visited again last April. I hope to go at least once a year—it’s like my second home.
How long? ​I spent a week over Easter. I think a trip should be a minimum of 4 days. That being said, you cannot have enough days in Japan. There’s so much to do and discover!
Airport: ​I’m fine either way. Though Haneda is more convenient.
Airline: ​Being based in Hong Kong, I fly Cathay or ANA. For the full Japanese experience though, I’d go ANA.
Transport: ​Train – especially of you have the rail pass. Though I prefer the subway when going around Tokyo (compared to the JR lines).
Stay: It’s a bit of an open secret but Claska is a good option for those who don’t mind being further out. Not so great location-wise, but I find that it’s good value for money. It also allows you to have a more local experience. Really want to try Andaz the next time I visit.
Shimokitazawa and Daikanyama—Just a great place to window shop, find inspiration, and have coffee
Kagurazaka—I really love this area. So quaint and still quite local
Yoyogi / Shinjuku​—Biased because this is where I lived when I was in Tokyo. Great parks that are perfect for hanami (and koyou—changing of leaves during the fall).
Shop: Beams, Tokyu Hands, Muji in Yurakucho. I also like going to random second hand shops in Shimokita and concept stores such as La Kagu in Kagurazaka.
Eat: I find following Robbie Swinnerton of Japan Times to be helpful
Besides Tokyo, where else is good to go? ​Close to Tokyo, I enjoy going to Nikko, Kamakura and Izu. Further away, I love Kyoto, Nara, and Sapporo. One of the more undiscovered regions in Kyushu—I think it’s really cool! I lived in Oita Prefecture during undergrad and I think the Japanese countryside (called inaka) shows a very different side of Japan.
​P​asalubong Something at the depa chika for foodie friends (like Japanese sweets from Toraya). For those who prefer fashion, designer handkerchiefs (so nice and cheap in Isetan) ​or nice stockings / cool socks at Tabio (there’s one in Omotesando Hills).

Who’s excited for West Elm opening at Estancia Mall?

I am!
I discovered West Elm online when I was looking for paper placemats a few years ago.
Here’s the table setting we did for my birthday in April 2014.

Table setting

Since then I’ve only shopped online and never been to a physical West Elm store. So imagine my excitement when I saw this coming up at Estancia mall last December.

West Elm

Launched in Brooklyn, New York last 2002, West Elm isn’t your ordinary home store. Aside from offering well-designed goods to personalize your home, the company makes sure they use honest business practices in everything they do—from handcrafted and local products, to supply chain transparency and sustainability.

Estancia at Capitol Commons is our favorite new mall. It’s not very big but it feels safe and has a great lineup. Pepper Lunch just opened, that’s why we are often there. It also has a Lesportsac store on the top floor. Opening soon along with West Elm are Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, and PB Teen. Home-wise, it’s a one-stop shop.
A couple of nights ago the mall had many foreigners walking around, setting up at West Elm. My kids and I literally peeked through an opening in the window cover and stole this shot (well, the foreigners were on a break).

West Elm

Can’t wait to shop here. To give you and idea, here are some things I found online and hoping to find here, starting with the gift items, like candles

West Elm
West Elm

Tote bags

West Elm

Nicely packaged soaps

West Elm
West Elm

Kitchen and table ware—yes, that is a butter dish cover

West Elm

Hot dog and snack servers

West Elm


West Elm


West Elm

Office and desk accessories

West Elm
West Elm
West Elm
West Elm


West Elm

Hooks and mirrors

West Elm


West Elm

Puffy pillows

West Elm


West Elm
West Elm
West Elm

and other exciting furniture
West Elm
West Elm
West Elm
West Elm

I can’t wait!
Follow me on Instagram @chuvaness and @chuvafinds for live updates from the invitational event on June 11 at 4 PM, while West Elm opens to the public on June 12, 2015 at Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons.

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